Feedback loops and self-quantifiers

Two recent articles talk about the use of sensors to improve people’s lives.

The first article in FT Invasion of the body hackers (June 10 2011) uses the term self-quantifiers, defined as the engineers and entrepreneurs that have begun applying a tenet of the computer business to their personal health: “One cannot change or control that which one cannot measure.”  The phenomenon is still niche but  technology is making possible to have sensors and wireless devices together in experiences that can go mainstream making data collection completely passive. Some will even be “game-ified”, (Tim Chang) says, made as fun and addictive as Angry Birds.

The idea is very simple, by listening to our body we can easily understand ourselves and improve our health and behavior. There is a conference on the subject Quantified Self conference, the first was this year, for users and tool makers interested in self-tracking systems.

The second article is from Wired (July 2011)  and it is titled Harnessing the Power of Feedback Loops.  The feedback loop, a profoundly effective tool for changing behavior. The basic premise is simple. Provide people with information about their actions in real time (or something close to it), then give them an opportunity to change those actions, pushing them toward better behaviors.

From the Wired article:

A feedback loop involves four distinct stages. First comes the data: A behavior must be measured, captured, and stored. This is the evidence stage. Second, the information must berelayed to the individual, not in the raw-data form in which it was captured but in a context that makes it emotionally resonant. This is the relevance stage. But even compelling information is useless if we don’t know what to make of it, so we need a third stage: consequence. The information must illuminate one or more paths ahead. And finally, the fourth stage: action. There must be a clear moment when the individual can recalibrate a behavior, make a choice, and act. Then that action is measured, and the feedback loop can run once more, every action stimulating new behaviors that inch us closer to our goals.

GlowCap, Zeo, GreenGoose are all example of the applications that show the potential of these ideas.

Highly relevant and interesting is the talk at Tedx of Daniel Kraft Medicine’s future? There’s an app for that

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